Sunshine Mantra

Everything is great!  Life is fantastic! I’m blessed & highly favored!  Living’ the dream!

I’ve said these words more than occasionally when my life isn’t whipy, when I’m tired, sick & when stuff is awful.  So was I lying?  Was I making a faith confession?  Was I living in denial?  Depending on the day or hour, yes 🙂

If we want to love genuinely, let’s be ready for someone to be honest & say that stuff isn’t going well. Indeed, when Job went through a season of living hell, his friends stayed with him in silence for a week before they said a word. There was no sunshine mantra in the conversations w Job & his friends.  When a friend goes through a crisis, let’s be willing to walk alongside them with honesty & not get ruffled. 

As it relates to having a personal crisis, I recognize that not everyone can handle our honesty or when things aren’t going well.  And that’s ok!  Let’s allow God to bring people into our lives who don’t always settle for the sunshine mantra. 

Changing Conditions

Changing Conditions

Choppy or smooth? Icy or powder? Chunky or groomed?  These are all descriptions of the snow conditions when a person skis or snowboards. 

When I was first learning to snowboard, I struggled to navigate changing conditions. I was really good on groomed runs but ice caused me some significant problems. 

I’ve been snowboarding now for almost 15 years & I can navigate various conditions usually without injuries, although I have definite preferences. 

I think the same can hold true for us as we mature in our walk with Jesus. Early on, maybe we didn’t have the agility to navigate disappointment or unanswered prayers. As we mature in our walk w Jesus, it’s helpful to keep love as our top priority regardless of the changing conditions. I find that the more I stay in love w Jesus, regardless of what’s happening around me, the easier it can be to navigate changing conditions 🙂

Old and New

Happy 2019! Starting a new day, a new month and a new year is a nice way to think of a fresh start. In some respects, a new year is a little bit like a do-over, taking some of the mishaps, failures, lessons, progress and successes of 2018 and making improvements on these for 2019.

Where you’ve had failures & disasters in 2018, be careful not to allow shame, embarassment, defeat, fear or insecurity define your perspective on these things in 2019. Sometimes it’s helpful to think of failures, defeats, disasters and mishaps in terms of practice and progress. In this way, let’s make new mistakes in 2019 and not the same ones from 2018.

Where you’ve had success, improvement, maturation & progress, let’s take such momentum into 2019 and keep going! There’s a good chance that God would like to build on these things from 2018 and expand those victories!

It’s a new day, new month and new year – all aligned with God’s work because He makes all things new (Isaiah 43:18), including you and me!

Not Ready

The week between Christmas & New Year’s feels like a “not ready” week, maybe because of all the festivities, bustle & frenzy leading up to Christmas, . . . . . And then we pause 🙂

And for such a pause, I’m abundantly grateful. I don’t have to get ready for anything – no dinner guests, no events, no sermons, no parties, no gift wrapping or last minute presents to buy. In this week, it’s ok to be “not ready.” So I appreciate the opportunity to lounge in pjs, take time for reflection, watch birds and squirrels eat berries off the tree outside my window, get my vacuum into the shop for a much needed tune-up, sleep in a little bit and be entirely comfortable with being “not ready.”

Maybe this idea goes back to the concept of Sabbath, when we pause from our work and take a day of rest. I sincerely believe that such a pause is an essential ingredient for growing in our intimacy with God 🙂

Finding Jesus

In that today is Christmas Eve, or maybe Christmas when you read this, we might be thinking about Jesus’ birth 🙂

And in the story of Jesus coming to live among us, there are some interesting things we can consider for our daily living.

*Unexpected Coincidence: the shepherds in the field were doing a normal night of shepherding when there was a supernatural interruption. Let’s be mindful that a supernatural interruption can sometimes be dismissed as an unexpected coincidence, causing us to miss something God wants us to know or experience

*Inconvenient Journey: the wiseman took the Star as a signal to go on a journey to seek out something unknown but important. Let’s be mindful that what could be inconvenient and unfamiliar has the potential to lead us to know Jesus more deeply and in a richer experience.

*Unconventional Relationship: Joseph decided to keep Mary as his fiancé even though she was pregnant out of wedlock. Let’s be mindful that being merciful, gracious and generous can position us to bring Jesus to people in meaningful and life-giving experiences.

Let’s keep finding Jesus and helping others experience genuine love through finding Jesus!

Not Yesterday

The past is a really interesting thing to consider. Like me, you likely have some very fond memories as well as some experiences that you’d rather forget. And today is a new day, with new mercies, new experiences, new people, new minutes, new activities, new adventures, . . . . lots of new for new days!

And may we never forget that God’s mercies are new every morning because the faithfulness of God is infinite. Let’s allow each day to be new & have a fresh start. Yesterday is over & today is a new day 🙂

What Smells?

How often have you smelled a perfume or cologne & it reminds you of someone you know?  Or maybe you played sports & when you smell a certain soap it brings back those memories from showering off the workout / practice sweat. 

In the same way, we can leave a lingering smell / residue in our interactions with people. To this end, think about the people who leave a “bad taste in your mouth” & how you might try avoiding them. On the other side, think about those people with whom you interact & you find yourself smiling, cozy on the inside & wanting more interaction. 

I would propose that genuine love is what all of us want & the exchanges that have genuine love leave a healthy & desirable residue. With Jesus’ help, let’s aim to leave a sweet smell from our people interactions!

What Do You Hear?

“That’s not what I said.”  A lot of times when I listen to someone talk, I have to realize that I don’t always hear what’s being said. And I don’t hear what’s actually being said because of my own perspectives / filters that obscure what is said. Consider that the religious leaders in Jesus’ day couldn’t hear His words because of their own filters. They were concerned about their position & power more than hearing Jesus’ truth & genuine love.

With this reality, we would be wise to consider what may be our filters. Here are some examples for your consideration:

Fear: failing & bad experiences can skew our ability to hear stuff clearly

Scarcity: lack skews our ability to hear clearly 

Shame / Embarrassment: when something has terribly wrong in our lives we can easily feel shame

Jesus tells us to be careful what we hear & we would be wise to consider what filters we might have that could be muddling what we hear!

Happy Advent!

The Attitude Factor

It’s easy for me to get a bad attitude when I’m tired, when I have jet lag, when a day is overflowing with bad stuff, etc. And I find that attitudes are important catalysts for how we experience life. In the Bible, we can see various people who wrestled with their attitudes & the outcomes. For example, David had good reasons to have a bad attitude with the Saul season & he endeavored to coach his attitude by keeping his focus on God – a really helpful principle!

Let’s also remember: a bad attitude ruins everything good & a good  attitude ruins everything bad 🙂

The Abundance Factor

Little tweaks can make big impacts & I see evidence of this in lots of ways.  For example, I have a friend who regularly reminds me that gratitude makes everything enough.  She uses everyday examples of how she’s thankful & the impact this attitude makes on her thinking, conversations & decisions.  And she doesn’t just do this at Thanksgiving!

The same can also be true for a little tweak with treats we enjoy!  During this holiday season, I’m doing a #hungerstrike campaign with Saving Moses, asking everyone to forego one treat / indulgence & send that money to Saving Moses to help us feed a malnourished baby. A candy bar in America, or a pumpkin spice latte, or the extra pair of shoes that we forego, could make the difference between life and death for a baby in our malnourishment clinics.

Let’s remember that abundance can be a direct result of gratitude!

Managing Hiccups

Hiccups aren’t pleasant. Some ways people deal w hiccups include: a spoonful of sugar under the tongue, eating a dab of peanut butter, drinking water upside down, startling someone, etc. 

And what about the unexpected hiccups in one’s schedule or mishaps with various plans?  What are some ways we can cope with the unexpected?  Here are some ideas:

  • Take a deep breath & remember that nothing catches God by surprise
  • Recognize the surprises have an emotional toll & this can be part of the challenge to navigate
  • Look for the upside – finding some good can make surprises more palatable
  • Do healthy – drink water, get rest, make good eating decisions, take a walk / exercise
  • Step into it & make the best with what you’ve got, frequently asking for God’s help

Happy Monday!

Enjoying People

Over the last week, it’s been fun to be around LOADS of sexworkers in Bangledesh, nice church folk in America, random & fascinating travel peeps & best of all, my family. And I enjoyed each exchange & interaction. 

Were some people cranky?  Yes

Were some people strange? Yes

Were some people brilliant? Definitely 

Were some people hurting? Absolutely 

Were some people broken? Everyone 

And I’m so grateful that God is teaching & helping me to both enjoy & love people, full stop. Sometimes I do this better than others, to be sure. And it’s immensely helpful just to relax, smile & enjoy people no matter what!

Against the Grain

“We aren’t doing that!”  This morning, I read in Exodus about the Egyptian midwives who didn’t follow Pharoah’s command to kill all baby boys born to Hebrew moms.  They ran against the grain & took a risk when they didn’t comply.  Because they didn’t obey Pharaoh with his command, God blessed these midwives greatly!

I find the behaviors of these midwives to be very interesting:  they aligned themselves with a nation to whom they didn’t belong, they protected the most vulnerable, they were advocates of life and they found a “convenient reason” to explain their non-compliance to Pharaoh.

Sometimes we need to run against the grain of what’s popular around us to live as advocates & examples of genuine love!  🙂

When There’s Opposition

“You can’t do that!”  “That’s ridiculous & never been done before.”  “We aren’t interested in that kind of thing here.”  “NO!!!”

I’m in Bangledesh sitting with our Saving Moses nightcare team, comprised of nannies, administrative support, guards & assistants. This team looks after babies & toddlers every night while their moms work in the adjacent brothel. When I came to this area last year to present my idea for nightcare, I already had many years experience where people told me all the things I listed at the beginning of this blog & even more. Thankfully, the people in Bangledesh weren’t opposed to my idea, although definitely surprised. And today, I’m abundantly fulfilled to sit with this wonderful team – grateful for each of them & believing in nightcare!

So when you face opposition, here are some things I’ve found to be helpful:

  • See the goal – this helps to stay focused 
  • Take a step toward the goal, no matter how small
  • Be creative – there’s more than one way to achieve a goal
  • Failure is learning rather than defeat
  • Encourage someone else – it helps to keep your heart joyful

Daily Living

I’m in Bangledesh with Saving Moses. I love to watch the people here & reflect on their daily living. I see shopkeepers, garment factory workers, kids walking to school, brick makers, farmers, etc. There are lots of differences here in the daily living with what is familiar to us in America. 

As humans, however, there’s lots of commonality that we’d be wise to acknowledge. No matter the differences, let’s remember some helpful things:

  • Respect: being respectful of differences helps us learn & know people
  • Compassion: the road each person travels has unique struggles
  • Learning: new experiences can facilitate some incredible insights

At the core of these three things is an internal perspective that we can cultivate. When we lack these things, then it’s helpful to take an internal inventory to consider why something is missing. Selah 🙂

Election Hangover

In America this week, we had a national & local election, so all media outlets were fully engaged with debates, advertisements, etc. There are plenty of folk who prefer less campaigning & not just a few of us are weary of the deceptions & hostile conflict that politics has become. As a follower off Jesus & His teachings, there are a few takeaways to maintain regardless of your political affiliations / preferences. 

  • Be compassionate – Jesus was helpful, kind, forgiving, healing & generous to marginalized people
  • Be prayerful – Jesus taught His disciples to pray, a constructive habit we would be wise to cultivate
  • Be loving – Jesus said that His followers would be recognized by their love for each other.

Show Up

Some things are difficult & we want to find excuses or reasons to avoid such difficulties. We might want to sidestep a challenging conversation or greeting a prickly person. We might prefer to ignore the scale in the bathroom since it may tell us something unpleasant. And there’s always the “busy” excuse that’s convenient for all kinds of stuff we’d prefer to avoid. 

Despite our best efforts, however, whatever we try to avoid, ignore, deflect, etc it’s still there & will likely remain present until we step into the issue. Here are a few ideas that might help us to show up:

  • Pray: let God know you don’t want to show up & ask for divine Help
  • Deep breath:  this can often help to clear the cobwebs in our thinking & give us some energy to take a step
  • Anticipate good: it’s possible that whatever we might be avoiding has some unexpected good stuff
  • Love truth: sometimes we avoid truth bc it might be painful or unpleasant. But ultimately, deception is more destructive than truth!

In Your Skin

You are magnificent when you are you!!  When you try to blend, conform or be someone else, not so much.  I say this because I’ve brought my daughter for a college visit & I remember my insecurities in college & being uncomfortable in my skin.  I’ve always been a little quirky & when I’m settled with myself, that’s fun.  When I’m unsettled with myself, the quirky and fun side of me gets quiet and even disappears.

All of us have insecurities and internal struggles.  At the same time, let’s rest in the truth that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, in the image of our Heavenly Father.  We are valuable, important and have divine purposes and plans.  Indeed, in Ephesians 2:10, it says that God has already laid out good works for us to walk in and no one can do these good works, except you because they are divinely appointed for you, living in your skin and being wonderful YOU!!!

Celebrate Genuine Love!

Being that today is Halloween, the last day of October, it’s a great day to celebrate genuine love!  I say this because Halloween was always a scary holiday to me, with all the skeletons, tombstones, ghosts and macabre images.  When I was a kid, this day often left me fearful.  In contrast, 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear.  So instead of accentuating fear, today I choose to celebrate genuine love!

Here are a few suggestions that might help you celebrate genuine love today:

  • Look for people to encourage throughout today – what they’re wearing, nice hair, friendly smile, beautiful eyes, witty wisdom & LOADS more
  • Let Jesus love you throughout today – reject the enemy’s lies that say you’re inadequate, have no hope, going to fail, or that you’re a mutant
  • Smile & watch for gratitude opportunities – clean air, warm sun, nice coffee / tea, clean water, beautiful trees & HEAPS more!!

Happy Genuine Love day to you!!

Proximity Alert

It’s getting colder & the days are getting shorter as we begin to move towards Winter.  In the southern hemisphere, they’re approaching Summer and it’s getting warmer there & the days are longer.  So it depends on your location on our planet, in approximation to the sun, whether you’re getting warmer or colder, more or less light. By default, heat & light also have a direct impact on how much life there is.  Where there is less light & more cold, life is less abundant.

Let’s make the same parallel for Jesus, God’s Son.  When we revolve our lives closely around the Son, we have more light, greater warmth & consequentially, more life.  We can also consider that perhaps there are some areas in our lives that need to be around Jesus more – particularly if we recognize the absence of light, warmth & life.  Jesus says that He’s come to give us life & life more abundantly – so let’s stay close to Jesus in every area of our lives!